Sustainable Irrigation 2012

4th International Conference on Sustainable Irrigation and Drainage: Management, Technologies and Policies Systems


11 - 13 December 2012
Adelaide, Australia



The 4th International Conference on Sustainable Irrigation and Drainage: Management, Technologies and Policies has taken place in Adelaide, Australia. The meeting was organised by the University of South Australia (UniSA) and the Wessex Institute of Technology. The sponsors were the School of Commerce and the Centre for Regulation and Market Analysis of UniSA, the University of Lethbridge, Canada, WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, and the Centre for Scientific Research (CSIRO) of Australia. It was also supported by the International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning.

The conference highlighted the importance of irrigation and drainage in modern society. Irrigation has made a major contribution to facilitate increasing food production in order to meet the needs of an ever-growing world population. Feeding the world and providing food security is nowadays more of a distribution problem rather than a production issue. However, in order to achieve this increase in food production, water extraction from aquifers and rivers has expanded considerably. As a result a large proportion of the world’s major water sources are suffering environmental consequences deemed unacceptable. Hence, further expansion of water supply for irrigation does not seem to be politically, economically or environmentally feasible.

This development represents a major challenge for water managers, policy makers, food producers and the industries that underpin them. It also generates fears and uncertainties about the world’s capacity to ensure a food secure future. This poses a particularly challenging question; if no more water can be extracted and current extraction has to be reduced, how can food security be achieved?

Considering that irrigation accounts for up to 80% of water use, there is only one certainty, in the future there will be less water available for irrigation in most regions of the world. This again raises a number of questions; how can we increase the efficiency and productivity of water use? How can we utilise new sources of water? And how can irrigators’ access to water be managed? Resolving these issues may enable irrigation to realise or increase its contribution to food security, reduce its environmental input and the socio-economic consequences of water reallocation.

Inextricably linked to all of these issues is the need to secure society’s social, economical and environmental water needs in a sustainable manner. The Sustainable Irrigation 2012 conference provided a unique forum for discussion of these issues. The meeting generated debate and ideas about how to achieve these objectives.

 Opening Addresses

Prof Bjornlund & Prof Brebbia
The Conference Chairmen and co-editors of the book were Prof Henning Bjornlund from the University of South Australia, Prof Carlos A Brebbia from the Wessex Institute of Technology (UK), and Dr Sarah Wheeler from UniSA.

Prof Bjornlund opened the meeting by welcoming the delegates and then asking Carlos to say a few words regarding the conference itself and the work of Wessex Institute.

Carlos spoke as follows: 'It is a great pleasure to return to Adelaide, which I last visited many years ago, and see how much the city has changed.'

'It is also a pleasure for the Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT) to be associated with the University of South Australia (UniSA) in holding this important meeting.'

'WIT has been set up to act as a mechanism for the dissemination of knowledge, a function that we carry out through research, training, publishing, advanced consultancy services, and last but not least the organisation of international seminars and conferences, such as this.'

'While WIT is academically affiliated to the University of Wales, we are an independent organisation otherwise and consequently able to set up our own strategy which can evolve as technical changes occur and the demands of society vary.'

'Our conference programme hence is established as a response to the needs of society as well as those of the scientific community.'

'One of the most pressing problems confronting the world today is the management of water resources, a topic of several of WIT conferences, including Sustainable Irrigation 2012.'

'Irrigation as a major user of water resources is of paramount importance and the aim of this conference is to discuss how it can become sustainable.'

'The state of the art papers to be presented at this meeting are a clear indication of the advances made since the first conference was held in Bologna in 2006, followed by another in Alicante (2008) and the previous one in Bucharest (2010).'

'Aware of the major research advance in irrigation management and policies achieved in Australia, we were delighted to have the opportunity of reconvening the conference at this University, under the Co-Chairing of Professors Henning Bjornlund and Sarah Wheeler.'

'I like to stress that the conference itself – as successful as this promises to be – is an ever evolving event, with the next one to be reconvened in Poznan, Poland from 17 - 19 June 2014. From now until then the material presented and discussed here will continue to be developed.'

'The work of this series of conferences is not lost. It is published in a volume in our WIT Transactions, distributed in digital and paper format around the world, archived in our website (,) and indexed in a series of important databases.'

Delegates at UniSA drinks reception
'Furthermore, presenting authors are invited to submit extended versions of their papers for publication in the International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning, among other ways that our Institute’s press offers for further dissemination of their work.'

Carlos ended his remarks by wishing the delegates a very successful meeting.

Prof Sakkie Pretorius, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at UNISA, welcomed the delegates at the opening of the Conference and made special mention to those participants from abroad. He referred to the importance of the conference topic and the environmental impact of irrigation, which needs to be reflected in the corresponding legislation. It is also important – he stressed - to engage stakeholders.

The University of South Australia, Prof Pretorius said, pursues research excellence while concentrating on topics of relevance to society. Water resources is one of those key areas which can be integrated with other disciplines.

UNISA has several research centres related to the topic of this conference, working in economics, disaster management and sustainability. The conference programme comprised a series of keynote addresses and invited presentations by well known colleagues.

 Keynote and Invited Presentations

The keynote address by Prof Kauffman of the University in Oregon, USA, was entitled “The Evolution of Water Trust Funds in Ecuador” and the paper dealt with an innovative initiative established by the City of Quito in 2000 to set up a Water Protection fund to provide sustainable financing for the management and conservation of surrounding watersheds. Since then at least 15 similar water funds have been created in the region, seven of them in Ecuador. Professor Kauffman defined the water fund models and critically compared them to identify trends in the financing of watershed conservation.

Professor Henning Bjornlund of the University of South Australia and the University of Letheridge in Canada spoke about “Sustainable Irrigation: Alberta’s Perspectives”. This is an emerging problem in Southern Australia, with the environment starting to feel the impact of water scarcity. The region has experienced significant population and economic growth. There is an urgent need to find ways to share the water already collected and to have more water in the rivers to meet conservation objectives. Irrigation which controls 70 to 80% of all allocated water plays a critical role in meeting Alberta’s future objectives. For irrigation to remain sustainable it needs to be more efficient with its water usage and find ways to share its water with the rest of the community. The presentation discussed recent developments in Alberta based on seven major surveys conducted during the 2006-12 period.

The invited presentation by Dr Sarah Wheeler of the Centre for Market Analysis of the School of Commerce, University of Adelaide, was entitled “Selling Water for the Environment; how sustainable is it for irrigators?”. The paper discussed the situation in the Murray-Darling Basin where up to one fifth of the irrigators have sold water entitlements to the Government in accordance with the “Restoring the Balance” programme. The study focused on the consequences for irrigators, and provided an overview of the reasons why farmers sell water, and discussed fluctuations in water usage by irrigators over time. As a consequence the irrigators who sold the surplus water are likely to face shortages three to four years every decade in the future.

Dr Jeff D. Connor of Natural Resources Economics and Decision Services Group of CSIRO in Australia spoke about “Econometric assessment of the impact of drought on Murray-Darling Basin Irrigation”. His paper provided an economic assessment of how less water supply, and hotter and drier than normal weather in the recent millennium drought (1999-2010) have impacted irrigated areas, irrigation water supply rates and irrigation reserves in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The topic of that important basin continued to be presented in the paper by Professor Bill Pritchard of the School of GeoSciences, University of Sydney. He discussed how the Murray-Darling tradable water reform was to enable water to flow to its most valued use. This assertion however represented a simplistic view of the far more complex reality. The paper argued that this is not the case at present and that a geographical perspective, emphasising the constrained nature of space and sales within markets remedied these shortcomings.

The invited presentation by Prof Poh-Ling Tan of the University of Queensland investigated the topic of “localism as an appeal to community participants in Australian Water Planning”. Sharing of water between competitive uses of surface and groundwater systems across Australia is based on water plans. Planning involved the use of participatory processes to achieve a balance between consumptive and in-stream uses of water. Tensions are evident when over allocation water systems are required to be returned to environmentally sustainable levels of extraction, such as in the case of Murray-Darling basin. The tensions can be resolved by the identification of features that improve community confidence of plans. The results of Professor Tan can have implications for water planning in other countries, especially when the science is contested, social values are different and communities diverse.


Prof Kauffman, Professor Bjornlund, Dr Wheeler, Dr Connor, Prof Pritchard & Prof Poh-Ling Tan

An invited address by Professor Tadao Yamamoto of Hokkaido University, Japan, was entitled “Factors responsible for the effective introduction of water-sensing irrigation facilities in the Tarni River Basin”. He studied different water saving facilities and drew conclusions regarding the need to increase the current yield on the water fees in order to achieve effective management of water-saving facilities.

The invited lecture of Professor Graziano Ghinassi of the University of Florence, Italy, was entitled “Field comparison of design and hose reel irrigation performance: results of a three year research project in Italy”. The paper presented recent research results carried out at farm and field level, showing that drip performance is frequently lower than expected with regard to yield and was supplied on a seasonal basis, and that similar or better results are given by sprinkler systems operating in the same area during the same season. The outcome is that the selection and management of irrigation systems is of paramount importance for sustainable irrigation.

 Conference Sessions

Delegates during a conference session
The rest of the papers presented at the Conference were grouped into a series of sessions under the following headings:
  • Water trade issues
  • Irrigation management
  • Governance for sustainable irrigation
  • Sustainable irrigation and water re-use
  • Irrigation systems and planning
  • Irrigation modelling



 Social Occasions

Delegates on the excursion
The Meeting offered ample opportunities for making contacts among the participants, not only during coffee breaks and lunches, but also at the reception offered by UNISA at the end of the first day and at the conference dinner that took place during the evening of the second day. The confernce dinner was held at a well known restaurant where the guests were offered excellent fare, accompanied by a selection of regional wines. Adelaide is in the wine area of Australia, which comprises not only the renowned Barosa valley, but five others as well.

The Conference closed with an afternoon excursion to the South Australian Water Centre for Water Management and Re-use. Delegates were given a tour of the Australian Irrigation and Hydraulics Technology facility which consists of a unique infrastructure suited to the testing of water-related equipment and to carry out research on important related topics.

 Abstract and Paper Submission Information

The proceedings of Sustainable Irrigation, 544pp (Print ISBN:978-1-84564-648-6; eISBN: 978-1-84564-649-3) are available from WIT Press. Orders can be placed on the WIT Press web site at or by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone: +44 (0) 238 029 3223 or fax: +44 (0) 238 029 2853.

Papers from the conference will also be hosted online at the WIT eLibrary as Volume 168 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment ISSN: 1746-448X, Digital ISSN 1743-3541). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at

 Related Conferences

Water Resources Management 2013

River Basin Management 2013

Food and Environment 2013